'Fairy dust in buckets' transforms unhappy pub into cosy tearoom
IT has stood forlornly by the side of the road. A once thriving New Forest pub that seemed to have lost its way.
But after new owner Rachel Rabbetts took over the Hobler Inn and literally sprinkled “fairy dust in buckets” it has undergone a remarkable transformation.
It is now Rosie Lea House run by the team behind the local tearoom and restaurant Rosie Lea, which will be offering a whole new style of hospitality.
Customers will be able to drop in for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with nibbles including a sandwich, or a cup of tea and a piece of delicious cake.
Even better, they can treat themselves to one of Rachel’s special cocktails or a pint of locally brewed beer.
What they will find if they do drop by is a stunning light and airy interior featuring creams and fawn greens along with quirky touches like homemade crafts, plant pots and displays of chintzy china.
Pointing to one tea pot, Rachel said: “That one was given to me by my father. It was my very first one and inspired my business, really. Customers won’t know that, but I do. It makes me smile when I see it.”
Rachel spent 14 years as an estate agent before going on to work for Yellow Pages. She started up her first Rosie Lea tearoom in Brockenhurst in 2011.
A second followed at Setley Ridge Vineyard four years later. The huge success of both led her to take over the Hobler.
She said: “It was quite run down and needed a lot of love. I’ve been on my hands and knees scrubbing for hours and hours. We have tried to upcycle as much as possible of what was here. My poor husband Mark has had to sand, hand paint and varnish 60 chairs!”
The kitchen could not be recycled so is brand new which has pleased chef Phil Holmes who had a hand in planning it.
Rachel said: “He likes to use a lot of locally sourced produce. He wants everything really fresh.
“We will be serving a restaurant menu from 12pm-9pm although there will still be casual offerings as well.”
A sample menu for more formal dining features local Lymington scallops with spiced avocado and gazpacho dressing, beer and rosemary roasted short rib and puff pastry galette.
Rachel has taken a ‘free of tie’ tenancy with Enterprise Inns which means she can choose which beers and spirits she serves.
As a result, customers can sample Pig beer, which is brewed less than five miles down the road, along with Flack Manor ales from Romsey. Gin and rum are hyper-local while there are also wines from Marlings Vineyard in Sway.
Tables at Rosie Lea House will all be socially distanced inside and out. Indoors there will be table service while outside customers will queue up to place their orders at a hut.
Like the interior the garden has been given a stunning makeover and now features a pagoda covered in fairy lights.
There is also a cute woodland kitchen for youngsters to play with, along with a pirate ship.
Rachel’s 18-month-old twins have been testing the play facilities for her and she says “they’ve given it their seal of approval”.
She is hoping to get a wedding license for Rosie Lea’s and already has her first booked for next year.
Rachel said: “The bride is in her seventies and has been a regular customer for years, she was so thrilled when she saw the pagoda and the garden.”
Rosie Lea House was supposed to open in April with a huge event for Oakhaven Hospice featuring live music and a farmer’s market.
Rachel admitted: “The last six months have been very up and down. It’s been a struggle.
“Not being able to open for such a long time was a blow but it also gave us the chance to really take time to create exactly what we wanted here.
“I have really put my whole heart into this as I see it as my children’s’ future. I am here to stay, and I want them to see it as their legacy.”
She said bookings have “gone through the roof” since the government announced the hospitality industry can re-open.
Rosie Lea Bakery in Brockenhurst will remain open offering takeaway drinks and cakes along with ice cream.
For more information visit www.rosielea.co.uk.
This article was amended on 3rd July 2020 to correct the spelling of the Hobler Inn.